Luggage for Leaders:Hints from a style guru

June 30, 2012

If leadership is about impression management, you may find these style hints of interest

I’m not saying I agree, but here’s what style guru Nikolas Feireiss wrote in Berlin &I City Guide recently:

I know at least one luxury hotel in Berlin where the staff receives special training in how to identify what the luggage says about the guests’ life style…it takes some practice to recognise Goyard or Asprey. Louise Vuitton cases aren’t to be snubbed at, or Hermes. Creatives prefer aluminium Rimowa.

He suggests getting some customising to luggage to enhance the effect. A visit to a flea market will give you a the right sort of 1930s luggage label. And don’t forget the carefully-placed dent in that Aluminium suitcase (the luggage equivalent of the worn jeans effect?)

To be continued

Some comments on impression management: Rightly or wrongly, leaders are often highly sensititized to the impact of first impressions. I interviewed several who took great care to achieve a good first impact. They would also certainly endorse the style guru.

One selected his tie carefully to convey just the right level in the power relationship expected. Another would never be seated while waiting to meet someone for the first time. Influence through first impressions seems at most a means of avoiding a bad first mind-set. The more-so as increasing numbers of people become aware of the game being played.

This is the first post of several under development from Berlin, a great international city.

A Fishy Tale from Norway

June 26, 2012

The contrary forces of innovation, Thomas Hoholm, Palgrave, ISBN 978 0 230 28366 4, 2011

Reviewed by Tudor Rickards

From time to time, a book for reviewing produces the response “Yes. That’s how it was for me too!” For me, this is one such book. It describes in rich detail and analysis a case study of the processes of innovative new product development. The environment of research and development (R&D) is beautifully captured.

Norway’s Blue/Green Strategy

The story has been described as a spin-off from the “Green Blue” strategy in Norway, which backed research into fisheries (blue) and agriculture (green). The specific innovations are traced to the research of a Professor Erik Slinde who was interested in industrializing Norway’s fish harvesting.

With entrepreneurial flair he hit on the idea of producing a fish-based salami. If you think that’s crazy get the book. If you think it’s a great idea, get the book. The little triumphs and disasters on the journey are convincingly reported.

Beyond a linear model of innovation

In his introduction, the author illustrates his departure from the traditional linear models of innovation as rather deterministic processes. Rather, he supports the notion of “path creation…that is known by a number of useful terms [including]: contingency, situatedness, relationality, heterogeneity, and co-creation” [page 1].

Hoholm argues that the management of innovation requires recognition of “a pluralistic power structure of leadership” [page 13].

Networks, paradoxes and dilemmas

This leads to an approach which examines innovation at the level of networks of interaction:

Corporate relationships shape and yet restrict or bound change

It is equally valid to say that a company defines relationships or that the company is defined by those relationships

Control of a network is desired but can become destructive

Actor Network theory

The author also draws on actor network theory, ANT, pioneered among others by Bruno Latour. Hoholm considers ANT “not so much a theory as an empirical and analytical methodology” [page 21].

He sees Latour’s work as a treatment which by-passes the agency/structure debate in social science in favour of a ‘circulating entity’ [page 22]. In more everyday terms, innovation like other social phenomena cannot be split into two entities such as agents and structures in search of causal explanations. This contrasts with much of popular explanations of innovation ‘caused’ by an individual, or an initiating idea triggering a linear sequence of consequences.

Why read this book?

I hope I have indicated why the book has appeal for researchers into innovation processes as well as a wider audience interested in how to conduct research in the social sciences

Recent research into leaders [to the tune of the Eton Boating Song]

June 24, 2012

Reading a draft paper about leadership recently, I was moved to poetry by a remark about “…recent research into leaders by Bryman, Northouse and Daft”. The following can of course be sung to the stirring chorus from The Eton Boating Song:

“Recent research into leaders
by Bryman and Northouse and Daft
implies that heroic figures
owe less to their genes than their craft

And subsequent studies reported
on leaders’ dilemmas and maps
suggest that conventional wisdom
still has a number of gaps

The definitive story of leaders
As masters whose interests we serve
Is being replaced by the concept
Of leaders we really deserve”

Note for students of leadership

Eton School provided the formative education of the current Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is regarded as symbolic of the British class system, where what is learned on “the playing fields of Eton” becomes values imbued in a disproportional number the country’s future political and military leaders. [Harrow School can claim to have produced more Prime Ministers, which is interesting, particularly to Old Harrovians].

For the sociologically-inclined, The Eton Boating Song may be an interesting topic for a Foucauldian analysis of power and privilege, including reflections on and interpretation of the leadership styles of David Cameron and George Osborne.

Such a scholarly initiative would benefit from including the best-known parody of the song [“The sexual life the Camel”], and from my poetic efforts above.


The image of Eton Boys was found on the excellent sporting website Arcadin Cricket Club

Is Gina Rinehart Australia’s next Rupert Murdoch?

June 19, 2012

Australian officials have expressed concern that billionaire Gina Rinehart’s increased stake in Fairfax Media may compromise the organisation’s independence

According to the BBC:

Australian officials have expressed concern that billionaire Gina Rinehart’s increased stake in Fairfax Media may compromise its independence.

The mining magnate, who now has an 18.67% stake, has asked for three board seats and the right to make editorial decisions. Ms Rinehart, who oversees an iron-ore prospecting empire, is a vocal opponent of the government’s mining and carbon tax plans.

Gina Reinhart, recently labelled the world’s richest woman, is the heiress to an iron-ore prospecting empire.

Her current plans appear to involve acquiring three seats on the board of Fairfax Media, and the right to get involved in hiring and firing employees.

Unlike Rupert Murdoch, this is a tycoon who is intent on staying on her home turf in building her business empire. This may explain why she has largely avoided global attention for her leadership activities.

The Australian government may be following the Leveson inquiry into Media Government relations with more than a passing interest.

Succession planning

There seems little likelihood of smooth succession planning for the 58 year old business woman. She is locked in a bitter dispute with her siblings over alleged involvement with their trust hunds.


Image is from the appeal by Fairfax Newspapers for Gina Rinehart to declare support for editorial independence

To be continued

Euro-drachmas, Football, and the Poll of Poles

June 17, 2012

The Greek nation prepares itself for elections which are said to risk its exit from the Euro and return to the drachma. Meanwhile, attention in and outside the country turns to the Football championships where the Greeks also face an imminent exit

The football championship of Europe is being contested in Ukraine and Poland. The battle for the Euro also continues. Greece is involved in both contests.

The Greek Elections

The Greek Election have been described as a last chance for the Country to accept the harsh disciplines required for it to receive further financial support of its economy. Polls suggest considerable popular rejection of the authority plans, with the possibility of a return to the old currency. Most external commentators believe this would be a lose-lose result for Greece, for Europe, and to some degree for prospects of more rapid economic growth globally.

The Euros [Football]

Meanwhile the sixteen qualifiers in the European football championships slug it out in the stadia of the joint host-nations Poland and Ukraine. The German team is one of the favourites. But unlike their economy, Spain’s football has triple A status, and expected to meet Germany in the final of the championships.
England’s football currency is weak. The new coach is attempting to succeed through invoking a Thatcherian spirit, establishing a stout defence and refusing to get closer to the methods of their competitors from the Euro-zone.

The Poll of Poles

Poland is in the tournament by virtue of being a co-host with Ukraine. I was much taken by a report of the football frenzy in the country.

One news report [via the BBC, June 16th 2012]] told of internal polls of whether Poland would win its next match and thus secure its place in the knock-out stages. Football experts thought probably not. Politicians predicted a comfortable win. It was nice to learn that a group of forty economists were polled and predicted a close win for the home nation. I haven’t found out the degree of consensus present among the distinguished voters.

According to one financial analyst

Odds are, according to stock markets, Greek voters will not vote pro-Euro, but that won’t matter. Europe will stabilize the situation and provide liquidity to help Europe weather any meltdown in the weeks ahead.
My guess is that Greeks will watch the game first, before they vote, and if their team is humiliated, as expected, they will vote to behave themselves and stay in the eurozone. If their team pulls off an upset, all bets are off.


It is typical of a Euro-centric perspective that I omitted to mention a significant poll going on in Egypt, where people are voting this weekend for a New President after the removal of Husni Mubarak.

The process was thrown into chaos with official announcements declaring the recent parliamentary election process invalid.

In the football, Greece triumphed. Poland were eliminated, contrary to predictions of their panel of economists. Politically, the Greeks are still voting [17th June 2012]

To be continued

Church of England struggles with single-sex marriage proposals

June 14, 2012

Bishop Tim Stephens

A discussion on gay rights from a mute eavesdropper

I was listening on breakfast-time radio [Jun 12th 2012] to the latest episode of a long-running story concerning the rights of gay people in the United Kingdom.

I caught only two snippets of discussion. The same presenter first interviewed a Bishop, and later someone representing a gay rights organisation [Stonewall].

First snippet:

Interviewer: You seem to be discriminating against the rights of gay people to marry?

Bishop: Not at all. If you read the document from start to finish you will see we do not discriminate”

ME [Mute Evesdropper] Thinking aloud]: What document? Doesn’t matter. That’s the ‘map’ being tested by the interviewer. The Bishop rejects the authority of someone who hasn’t read the whole document.

Interviewer: But you are discriminating. You reject the rights of gay people to be married in your Church.

ME [thinking aloud]: Nice one. She’s denying she needs to read whole document to explore the point she is making.

Bishop: We are not discriminating, we are distinguishing between people.

ME [thinking aloud]: Maybe the same way the Church is ‘distinguishing’ between the rights of males and females to become bishops.

Snippet ends

Second snippet:

Interviewer: The Government seems to be offering more rights for gay couples

Spokesman: It’s still a discriminatory document proposed by a minority of noisy clerics

ME: Reminds me of the ‘noisy neighbours’ remark about a certain football club…

Interviewer: The church says it’s not discriminatory.

Spokesman: They would say that wouldn’t they.

Interviewer: The bishop says it’s distinguishing not discriminatory.

Spokesman: He would say that wouldn’t he.

ME [thinking aloud]: Spokesman ‘reads’ the document as discriminatory. Avoids semantic debate. Implies that the Church is arguing from a special interest position rather that a rational one.

End of snippet.

Map testing

In legal debate, the snippets would have to be carefully examined, applying skills and knowhow which accompany legal training. You do not need that level of sensitivity to legal subtleties to examine and interpret what is being implied within a discussion. It’s testing the map you are reading.

In digging more deeply it is useful to consider the dilemmas that might be most urgently occupying those involved. The Bishop faces the dilemma of accepting the universal right to the Church’s care and the theological objections to homosexual practices.

I don’t find it as easy to read the map offered from the STONEWALL representative. He clearly rejects the ‘map’ proposed by the Bishop as scaremongering. He may be uncomfortable about the relationship between Church and State as inappropriate for non-Christians, and for Christians who are non-Anglicans. However, maybe he is aware that the Church will be able to collect support in the media if he appears to be undermining their theological position.

Dialogue of the mute

There are many aspects of this complicated story which I can’t pretend to understand. But I hope I have indicated how it is possible to ‘tune in’ even with limited information. With respect to Bishop Tim you don’t have to ‘read the whole document’.

Having a ‘mute dialogue’ (also called talking to yourself) also has its merits. By active listening you may well figure out aspects of your own leadership beliefs and actions.

To go more deeply

The Guardian takes its customary libitarian position

Hamilton wins FI in Montreal but dream team doubts persist

June 11, 2012

Lewis Hamilton won the 2012 Canadian Formula 1 race and was quick to praise his team. But watchers would have wondered whether McLaren has the high performance team needed to win consistently

Formula 1 racing is an excellent spectacle for observing high performance teams engaged in competitive action. The teams compete with a clear-cut goal, for maximise points. But there are far more complex issues to take into consideration. When Lewis Hamilton praised his team after the race, it should be noted that the term is open to several interpretations.

His car is one of two each maintained by a distinct team within McLaren. Hamilton was probably referring to ‘his’ team. But he might have been referring to the smaller team responsible for the vital pit-changes of wheels and fuel top-ups, or even the wider Team McLaren.

Two inter-related competitions

There are actually two inter-related competitions going on throughout the Formula 1 season. Each contractor provides its own brand or marque, referring to its cars. Some marques have historic names such as Ferrari and Mercedes. Others such as Red Bull and McLaren are more recently successful. The contractors’ championship is a competition between brands.

Each contractor races two cars, with identical characteristics. However, the cars are maintained by two distinct teams, each with its driver. There are pressures on the drivers to compete with each other. The potential for dilemmas between contractor and team(s) is high, as being outperformed by the other driver of a marque may mean being replaced at the end of a season. In our story Lewis Hamilton is paired with, (and against) Jenson Button. Both are top drivers who have won the FI championship once already. Button did not figure highly in the Montreal race.

‘Rules against rules’ of competition are in place to prevent contractors instructing one driver to favour another. If such practice was left unchecked, a contractor would be encouraged to disadvantage one of the drivers, in order to maximise points in the contractors’ competition).

Pit-stops and chess in hyperspace

FI is currently designed to test the cars and the racing strategy of using specified tyres. Teams have to plan complex strategies of changing tyres and re-fueling in pit-stops. The decisions require judgement on tyre wear, fuel, racing conditions including weather, and several other variables. Speed of pit stops is down to the pit-lane team; timing including number of stops down to the broader team. A slight mistake can change the race completely for a driver. It’s like Chess in twenty dimensions. Perhaps a Bobby Fischer is needed for each team.

Hamilton’s pit-team and pit-stops

The pit stops for team Hamilton in Montreal did not appear to have been as slick as was expected. One of the stops was sluggish through a re-start error by Hamilton. The other was a slow tyre change, with evidence of some team scrambling, as a replaced tyre wandered out of control behind the team momentarily. The measurable consequence of each stop was loss of time, placing Hamilton at risk of losing a race he seemed to be winning.

Hamilton’s intercom discussions

The drivers receive up to the moment information by intercom. This is open to other teams (and indeed the to the TV commentators and audience). Hamilton’s discussions showed he was concerned that his rivals were planning a ‘one pit’ strategy which would require Hamilton to drive accordingly. He was repeatedly advised this was not the case. The more he was reassured, the more Hamilton requested re-confirmation.

The one pit-stop option

It turned out that the strategists for Team Hamilton had based their conclusion on the dangers of a one pit strategy not the possibility of one. The dangerous Sebastian Vettel, and Fernando Alonso were on a one-pit stop strategy. Eventually Hamilton was told that he was still in a great position because the other drivers would be catchable as their tyres degraded.

Victory and thanks to my team

As it turned out, Lewis Hamilton caught and passed his rivals to win the race. He graciously thanked his team for their brilliant effort in securing him his first FI win of the season.

To the victor…

The press reports barely hinted at the problematic aspects of Team Hamilton’s performance.

Crucially, Hamilton has reclaimed the lead in the championship, even if only by two points from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and three to Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.

Regardless, it was a day to savour as McLaren made a two-stop strategy work to perfection, despite initial scepticism when Hamilton made his second trip into the pits with 20 laps to go.

According to McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh:

Lewis drove brilliantly… For Jenson, by contrast, today was another day on which we, his team, failed to provide him with the tools with which to do the brilliant job we all know he’s capable of.